The United States is a melting pot of many different cultures and peoples. While English is the official language of the United States, nearly one in every five Americans speak another language at home. Whether or not these citizens speak English does not change the fact that they are still citizens, and they have the right to vote. This concept has brought up a dilemma in Wisconsin, where most ballots do not provide a translation for non-English speaking citizens. Some officials feel that non-English speaking citizens should be provided with translation services or additional ballots to ensure that they are given an equal right. Others feel that doing so slows the assimilation process. Both sides of the argument are valid and can be applied to the United States at large.
Some Cities Translate Ballots
Milwaukee voting centers do provide translated ballots and even hire bilingual poll workers to help accommodate those who do not speak English as their first language. Other towns, such as Appleton, actually have community members who volunteer to help non-English speakers navigate the polls so that their voice can be heard. When there is no support or translations available, many people who do not speak English bring along their younger family members to vote for them. While hiring a professional translator to work at every poll would certainly be expensive, many people believe that smaller cities should at least provide translated paper ballots.
Translation Services at the Polls Don’t Solve the Problem
While offering a translated ballot at the polls would help non-English speaking citizens in the moment, it doesn’t solve the larger problem of language barriers in the United States. Many officials feel that, since English is the official language of the U.S., the government should instead focus on providing education resources to help assimilate people into the culture. If they can’t get any help at the ballot, they might be pushed to take action and learn the language of the country in which they reside as opposed to relying on translator services.
The problem is not one that can be solved without further debate, but is certainly one that pertains to the entire U.S. Spanish-speaking people who make up a huge part of our country, so at what point should they stop using a Spanish translator and learn the English language? The question will likely be up for debate for many years to come.